Hi Filmsters, and welcome to another Tuesday Review.
After the last two Reviews that were brilliantly done by Comrades Becca and Lisa, this time it falls on me to try and sum up an amazing night had on Monday courtesy of Comrade Lucy. She chose a film that she saw in 2007 on it’s release, and remembering enjoying it massively, chose to extend it to the MNFC crew too. And we’re certainly glad she did. For on a cold November evening, our tummies full of gnocchi, we settled down to watch La Vie en Rose.
La Vie en Rose is a biopic of Edith Piaf, and is a welcomed return to MNFC of a genre we have touched upon a few times in our back catalogue. The biopics of Frank, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Into the Wild, and Amadeus, show the variety of ways in which biographical stories can be told, with differing approaches both stylistically and in their historically ‘accuracy’. In this last respect, biopics are often criticised and La Vie en Rose amongst our other films have also received some of this criticism… but more on this later.
It is fair to say that all of the film clubbers massively enjoyed the film. Despite it’s long running time, it flowed very quickly and this is in part due to the non-chronological narrative which the film is structured. This decision to play around with the narrative has been celebrated by some critics and lambasted by others. For example, Roger Egbert found it fascinating and a reflection of Piaf’s own chaotic lifestyle, and that it also highlighted the transient nature of many of her relationships. Click here for his incredible review. Time, however, found it “very dreary” and could not understand the stylistic choices made. I’ll let you decide on which you prefer… personally, I found the use of non-chronology here very powerful; it stopped cliche and predictability, especially the resolution frequently seen in biopics of the decline into old age and ill health, and also the usual opening of ‘childhood’ which tends to be less interesting. Free of the constraints of the genre’s usual structure, we get to see Piaf in ways that are linked thematically rather than chronologically.
With this in mind, the playing around of narrative meant that very near the end of the film, we are shown a scene which dramatically changes the viewer’s insight into many of Piaf’s traits and actions. Again, critics have found problems with this. But, avoiding spoilers, I will just say that I found it shocking and unexpected, and made me reconsider the 2 hour film I had just seen.
This final revelation is brilliantly played to make you realise that, of course, you can never really know all about a person. There are secrets, events and personal thoughts that all of us have that no one would ever know. This is especially the case of a biopic: even in a 2hr 20 min film, how could you possibly begin to show the facets of a person’s entire life? As such, omissions from the story, such as Piaf’s role in WWII, do not make the film any less powerful or representative of her life.
Perhaps my favourite scene in the whole film takes place in her New York apartment: she wanders from room to room, the camera following her all in a single shot. It gives the viewer a sense of un-ease, gradually revealing the reason why this is, and ultimately without any cut edit, walking out onto the stage and performing. You can see this here (contains spoilers)
The character performance by Marion Cotillard was also amazingly captivating; and in preparing for this review I have watched some Edith Piaf footage and it is testament to the skills of the Cotillard that such an accurate portrayal was received. Her ability to provide a convincing portrayal at all the ages and stages of Piaf’s life and later ill health was incredible, and the character shone through the ageing make-up special effects that were also incredibly convincing but not distracting from the performance. Furthermore, she had the best eyebrows in any film I’ve ever seen.
In the post-film discussion, we found clear comparisons to other famous stars of the era: Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Marylin Monroe – and more recently to Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse. It seems that when it comes to Hollywood or the music industry, history does have a tendency to repeat itself.
As talk turned to recent film experiences, we spoke briefly about Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s latest epic which is currently in cinemas (for those who have seen it I would recommend a consideration to clicking here). Marion Cotillard also starred in another Nolan film, Inception. Those who have seen Inception will know how Piaf’s ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ was used as a plot device throughout the film. You may be interested to click on this YouTube link, which demonstrates how ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ was slowed down and used by Hans Zimmer’s original score for this film.
And so thoughts move to our Christmas special. Yes, it really is that time of year already! MNFC is heading to Comrade Sam’s for the festive occasion on December 15th… so we’ll see you for some seasonal cheer in the Tuesday review then!
Best wishes to one and all
Non, Rien de rien. Non, Je ne regrette rien. Sauf pour cette Revue Mardi. (…thanks google translate!)